The fishing was basically something to do; I didn't dislike it, but neither did I wake up thinking wow, I can't wait to get that gooey chum all over my shorts and bake in the sun for 10 hours.
Now, in an odd but enjoyable art-imitating-life moment, I'm revisiting the experience in ArcheAge.
One of the key differences, apart from the obvious digital vs. meatspace thing, is that this time I very much look forward to a couple of hours of angling and the lazy in-game lifestyle that fits it like a glove. Getting started takes some doing, though, as ArcheAge's fishing mechanics are undoubtedly the most robust I've seen in an MMORPG. If you're so inclined, you can make a virtual career of it as well as quite a pile of gold via high-level sport fishing. If you're not in it for the long-haul, you can opt for the usual/casual MMO fishing experience that in this case amounts to auto-casting for both fishing proficiency and leveling XP.
You won't get very far without a fishing rod, and why not use this opportunity to acquaint yourself with ArcheAge's crafting mechanics if you haven't already? Sure, you could buy a bamboo pole via the auction house, but then you'd be giving your hard-earned gold to another player when you could spend 10 minutes equipping yourself and scarfing up XP and crafting proficiency in the process.
Find the nearest crafting area on your map and make sure it has a tailoring loom, a handicraft kiln, and a carpentry workbench. You may also save some time if there's an auctioneer NPC and a mailbox nearby. You'll need to make a sharp fishing hook at the kiln (base material iron ingot refined from iron ore), a bamboo fishing pole frame at the carpenter's bench (base materials bamboo stalks and wool or cotton fabric), a wooden reel at the carpenter's bench (base material lumber refined from logs), and basic fishing line at the loom (base materials cotton and wool). Once you've made these sub-components, make the final rod at the handicraft kiln.
If you don't have the base materials, you can either buy them off the auction house or grow/mine them yourself.
Once you've got your rod, you'll need some worm bait. You can craft these as well, but you'll need to plant and harvest seed bundles to do so. You can buy seed bundles from the AH, or you can make your own bundles if you have access to a farmer's workstation on player-owned property. Normally I find it quicker to buy bait from other players. On Tahyang, the price fluctuates, but I can usually find stacks of 100 worms for anywhere from three to five gold.
Once you've got your rod and your worms, find yourself a fishing spot. Freshwater vs. saltwater doesn't matter right now, as all you're going to do is auto-cast your way to 10,000 proficiency. Be sure you have a dozen or more inventory spaces for the stacks of fish you're about to catch, and don't forget to right-click the fishing icon in the hotbar that pops up when you equip your rod. You can left-click it and then pick your casting spot manually each time if you really want to, but it isn't terribly efficient.
And that's it for ArcheAge's basic fishing tier. Kick back and enjoy the XP, the view, and the virtual salt air.
Once you've hit 10,000 proficiency, the sport fishing fun begins! At this point you'll have built up quite a stack of vocation badges (you'll earn three for each bait fish you catch, and you'll be catching a couple thousand of them before you hit 10K). The badges are currency that you'll spend on lures and chum at a Blue Salt Brotherhood NPC.
Start with yellow lures and grab one of each chum type while you're at it (chopped squid, sardines, mackerel, roosterfish, pike, and regular old chum). These are pricey, but one goes a long way, and often times someone else will do the chumming for you. Keep in mind that players also buy both lures and chum with their own vocation badges and then resell them on the AH for gold, so you don't always have to buy them from a vendor.
Now you'll need to decide whether you want to fish in freshwater lakes or on the ocean. Lakes hold some appeal as they're generally not subject to PvP, whereas fishing on the ocean leaves you vulnerable to the murderbot crowd for the duration of your soiree. I've yet to be killed after four-plus hours of ocean fishing, though, probably because fisherman tend to bunch together near spawns and present a larger, less inviting target to lone wolf ganker tools. Be aware, though, that if a big enough group comes along, it could roll you and take your sport fish.
It's all about risk vs. reward, since you won't be getting rich by fishing eels out of lakes. Landing certain saltwater fish, on the other hand, can net you north of 40 gold a head!
To find a fish spawn, simply look for a flock of birds wheeling to and fro over the water. As you approach the area, you'll see a school of fish label on the water which tells you what's here and in turn what sort of chum to use. Mouse over the chum you bought earlier and right-click the appropriate bucket icon to toss it in the water (for example, if you find a marlin spawn, you'll want to right-click the chopped mackerel chum).
Once that's done, the school of fish will become a marlin feeding frenzy (or a sturgeon feeding frenzy if you found a sturgeon school, and so on and so forth). Go ahead and equip your rod and get ready to do battle! Once a fish bites, make sure he's targeted and then look at the debuff markers that pop up under his health bar. Push the corresponding button on your fishing hotbar, and make sure you do it within three or four seconds, otherwise a new icon will pop up and your quarry will make off with your lure after a few such failures. You'll be pulling left, pulling right, letting out your line, and reeling in for a good while, especially since you're a 10K newb and most likely using a low damage rod.
Some of the ornery fish move around a lot too, and I've had to reposition my avatar after one has swum under my boat, the better to insure that I'm pulling in the proper direction. Keeping matching his moves and you'll eventually wear him out, at which point you can loot him and he'll turn into a floppy, fishy trade backpack. It slows you down and renders you unable to teleport or use gliders just as a regular trade pack does, so you'll want to look for the nearest fishing stand on your map and turn him in either for gold or for a housing decoration.
As with everything else in ArcheAge, sport fishing is more efficient -- and more fun -- with friends. Keep in mind too that you can usually go to the nearest harbor, wait for someone to whip out a fishing boat, and follow him to a fish spawn, assuming he doesn't invite you to come along on the boat itself! There's no instancing here, so once someone has chummed a school into a feeding frenzy, anyone can drop a lure and fish away. On Tahyang it's common to hear people calling out fish spawns in the zone-wide /shout channel, too, and thus far my fellow fishermen have been friendly at worst and downright helpful more often than not.
There's much more to ArcheAge's fishing system, but as I'm currently angling my way to 20K proficiency and still have plenty to learn, I'll save the rest of it for a future column.
Life's funny, though, isn't it? Years ago, I was making ends meet and spending my off days on various fishing-related adventures. Now, I'm making MMO ends meet in ArcheAge and spending my character's off time fishing for both fun and (eventually) profit.
I've got my eyes on one of those fishing boats, see, and in the meantime I can't wait to finish my MMO chores and get back to the ocean, the lakeshore, or wherever I feel like casting a line for the evening. And hey, nowadays I don't even have to deal with that nasty smelling chum!
Jef Reahard is an ArcheAge early adopter as well as the creator of Massively's Lost Continent column. In it, he chronicles one man's journey through XLGAMES' fantasy sandpark while examining PvE, PvP, roleplay, and beyond. Suggestions welcome at email@example.com.